Courtesy ImagineNATIVE site
“Dig It If You Can” is a short film at imagineNative featuring Steven Paul Judd, created by Kyle Bell (Thlopthlocco/Creek) an up-and-coming filmmaker based in Tulsa.

11 Awesome Artists, Films at 17th ImagineNATIVE Festival

Lisa J. Ellwood

The 17th Annual imagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival takes place October 19–23, 2016 in Toronto. This year’s events include 96 feature-length and short films, with 79 premieres, representing 72 Indigenous nations from around the world as well as exhibitions, panels & workshops, and special events.

Indigenous female directors made 51 percent of the films and videos, and half of those are by emerging filmmakers. The youngest filmmaker this year is Colton Willier (Grade 3, Canada) with "Skateboarding Pants," and the eldest is 84-year-old Alanis Obomsawin with "We Can't Make the Same Mistake Twice."

Here are some highlights from this year’s imagineNATIVE program:

This River - a short film by Katherena Vermette (Métis, Canada) and Erika MacPherson about Drag the Red, a grassroots volunteer initiative to trawl Winnipeg’s Red River for evidence of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

Journey Towards Reconciliation - a documentary feature by Indigenous youths Paige L'Hirondelle (Metis, Canada) and Sharon Somer (Cree, Canada) about Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Residential Schools, and what “reconciliation” means for them as they explore intergenerational trauma and reflect on Indigenous resistance and resilience.

The Kweenz of Kelston - A stunning profile of “The Kweenz” a group of fa’afafine, transgender and takataapui students who are working towards a final-year talent show at Kelston Boys’ High School  in New Zealand by Todd Karehana (Maori/Tangata Whenua, New Zealand). The teens discuss the negative judgements they’ve received from their male classmates and how they support and grow strength from their sisterhood as they prepare for their performance.

Konãgxeka: o Dilúvio Maxakali [Konãgxeka: the Maxakali Flood] - a short animated film by Isael Maxakali (Maxakali, Brazil), telling the Maxakali tale of the Great Water sent by the Yãmîy spirits who flood the region. A timely story of land and water rights which also serves as a warning against greed.

Crash Site - a short drama by Sonya Ballantyne (Swampy Cree, Canada) that will resonate with Native Nerds. The story of Kaley, a First Nations girl struggling with the death of her parents. After running away from her sister’s home, Kaley hides out in a comics shop where she connects with a First Nations superhero called Thunderbird who teaches her the power of family.

“Crash Site” (credit: imagineNATIVE)

Hipster Headdress - an unapologetic animated public service announcement by Amanda Strong (Michif, Canada), reminding non-Indigenous people that Native culture isn’t a costume.

“Hipster Headdress” (credit: imagineNATIVE)

The Native Slam - A powerful collection of international atypically collaborative works. Libby Hakaraia, director of the Maoriland Film Festival, and Australian producer Pauline Clague paired together 15 international Indigenous filmmakers, challenging each to create five short films in 72 hours on a budget of $800 each with a focus on ideas that heal.

Black Chook - a short drama by Dylan River (Kaytetye, Australia). Guided by the memories of his aunt, a young man begins to search for the roots of his family. He is reminded to find comfort in and celebrate the victory that is their survival as he discovers the painful truth of his ancestors’ fate.

Nitanish a ma Fille [Nitanish - To My Daughter] - a short personal documentary by Melissa Mollen Dupuis (Innue), co-founder of Idle No More Quebec. A message of promise, conviction and hope to the new life growing inside her as Mollen Dupuis weaves a blanket for her unborn daughter that tells the creation story of their people.

Cree Code Talker - While many are somewhat familiar with the history of Navajo Code Talkers, few realise that the Allied Forces of WWII utilized speakers of a number of Indigenous languages to transmit coded messages that could not be broken. Alexandra Lazarowich (Cree, Canada) reveals the contributions of Charles “Checker” Tomkins and how the Cree language was used as a vital secret weapon in combat.

Dig It If You Can - As described on the site, this short film is an “up close and personal with Steven Paul Judd, the dynamic and bold 21st century renaissance man. One of the art world’s most energetic, accessible and celebrated figures, this self-taught artist’s love for pop culture and Native American art has given him a massive following.” the film is by Kyle Bell (Thlopthlocco/Creek) an up-and-coming filmmaker based in Tulsa.

imagineNATIVE is an Indigenous-run registered Canadian charity committed to inspiring and connecting communities through original, Indigenous film and media arts. The mission of the imagineNATIVE Festival, Tour, and year-round initiatives, as indicated by their website, are to showcase, promote, and celebrate Canadian and international Indigenous filmmakers and media artists in order to create a greater understanding of Indigenous peoples, cultures, and artistic expressions.

Please visit for a complete schedule of festival events.  

imagineNATIVE - YouTube

Follow ICTMN Correspondent Lisa J. Ellwood on Twitter at

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